What is nasal trauma?
Nasal trauma is an injury to your nose or
the areas that surround and support your nose. Internal or external injuries
can cause nasal trauma. The position of your nose makes your nasal bones,
cartilage, and soft tissue particularly vulnerable to external injuries.
Common types of nasal trauma include:
- chemical irritation or injuries
to the inside of your nose
- obstruction by a
Your nose has many blood vessels
positioned close to the surface. As a result, nasal trauma often results in
nosebleeds. Other symptoms can also arise. Your recommended treatment will
depend on your specific condition and symptoms.
What are the symptoms of nasal trauma?
Symptoms of nasal trauma can range from
mild to severe, depending on the type and extent of your injury. For example,
symptoms of nasal trauma can include:
- pain in and around your
- blood coming from your
- clear fluid coming from
- bruising around your
- swelling of your face,
particularly around your nasal area
- trouble breathing
through your nose
- distortion of the shape
of your nose
- loss of sense of smell
What causes nasal trauma?
External nasal trauma can occur when force
is exerted on your nose. Common causes of external nasal trauma include:
- sports injuries
- motor vehicle accidents
- physical assault or
Internal nasal trauma can occur when the
cartilage or the blood vessels inside your nose get damaged. Common causes of
internal nasal trauma include:
- infections from nasal
- irritation caused by
inhaling certain substances
- sniffing cocaine or
other illegal drugs
- picking or scratching
the inside of your nose
- getting a foreign
object lodged in your nose
Children often put
themselves at risk of nasal injury by picking or putting objects up their nose.
How is nasal trauma diagnosed?
Your doctor may use a variety of methods
to diagnose nasal trauma. For example, they may:
- ask about your symptoms
and when they started
- gently touch the bridge
of your nose to feel for irregular alignment or movement
- examine the inside of your
nose to look for obstructions or chemical damage
- use an X-ray or CT scan
to assess the internal structures of your nose
How is nasal trauma treated?
In many cases, you can treat minor cases
of nasal trauma at home, using basic first aid and home care strategies. In
other cases, you may need professional treatment. Your doctor’s recommended
treatment plan will vary, depending on the type and severity of nasal trauma
that you have. For example, they may recommend:
aid and home care
To treat minor nosebleeds:
- Sit upright and lean
forward to reduce blood pressure in your nose.
- Pinch both of your
nostrils shut at the soft portion of your nose for five to 15 minutes.
- While completing these
steps, breathe through your mouth and keep your head higher than your
heart. Refrain from picking or blowing your nose for several hours
To treat blunt-force trauma to your nose:
- Apply ice for 10 to 20
minutes at a time throughout the day for the first few days after your
injury. Wrap the ice in a thin cloth or towel to protect your skin from
- Take over-the-counter
anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen.
- Sleep with your head
raised to reduce pain and swelling.
- If you suspect that your
nose is broken, contact your doctor.
To remove a foreign object from your nose:
- Try to gently blow the
object out of your nose by pinching shut the unaffected nostril.
- If the object is
visible and can be easily grasped, try to gently remove it with tweezers.
- If the first two steps fail,
contact your doctor. Don’t pick at the object or use a cotton swab or
other tool to probe at it.
Cauterization or packing
You can treat most nosebleeds at home. But
if you develop a nosebleed that lasts longer than 20 minutes or recurs frequently,
contact your doctor. You may require blood tests or imaging of the nose to
diagnose the cause. You may also require professional treatment.
Two common treatments of nosebleeds are
nasal packing and cauterization. With packing, your doctor will place gauze or
an inflatable balloon inside one or both nostrils to exert pressure on the
broken blood vessels in order to stop your bleeding. In other cases, they may use
cauterization to stop nosebleeds. In this procedure, they apply either a
topical medication to the broken blood vessels or use a heating device to seal them
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter
or prescription medications to help treat certain types of nasal trauma. For
example, they may recommend:
- painkillers to
- antibiotics to
- nasal sprays
to reduce irritation
If you experience a severe nasal fracture,
your doctor may recommend surgery to repair it.
For example, your doctor can use a
technique called reduction to push the broken pieces of bone back into place. They
may complete this procedure in their office using local anesthesia. Or a
surgeon may complete it in an operating room using general anesthesia. Typically,
you need to wait a few days to allow swelling to decrease, before they can
judge proper bone alignment and complete the procedure. Afterward, they will
stabilize your nose with an external splint.
In other cases, you may need more intensive
reconstructive surgery to repair a nasal fracture.
If your nasal fracture is accompanied by clear
fluid coming from you nose, you will be admitted to the hospital. This is
cerebrospinal fluid. Your doctor may insert a drain in your lower back to help
change the course of the spinal fluid away from the injured area.
What is the outlook for nasal trauma?
In most cases, the outlook for nasal
trauma is good. In some cases, it may result in nasal deformities, scarring, or
For example, a nasal fracture can
potentially damage the bones that attach your nose to your skull, allowing
cerebrospinal fluid to leak. This damage also presents an opportunity for
bacteria from your nose to reach your brain and spinal cord, which can cause
Septal hematoma is another rare complication
of nasal trauma. This happens when a collection of blood forms inside your nose.
If left untreated, it can cause the cartilage in your nose to die, resulting in
a deformed, collapsed nose.
How can nasal trauma be prevented?
You can prevent many types of nasal trauma
by taking simple precautions. For example:
- Wear appropriate
protective headgear when playing sports or participating in activities
such as bicycling and skateboarding.
- Always use seatbelts
and car seats in motor vehicles.
- Use protective masks
when working with toxic substances.
- Quit smoking and don’t
abuse illegal drugs.
- Don’t stick foreign
objects up your nose.
following these simple steps, you can protect your nasal health and ward off